OCTA - 91 Express lanes
Cofiroute USA serves as the operator of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) 91 Express Lanes, an internationally acclaimed facility, and has pioneered innovations in toll operations, integrated software systems and customer relationship management.
The 91 Express Lanes consists of 20 lane-miles within the median of the Riverside Freeway (SR-91) in Orange County, California. The eastern terminus of the toll road is the Orange-Riverside County Line and the western terminus is the intersection with the Costa Mesa Freeway (SR-55).
The toll road is a limited access, open road facility with two lanes in each direction. A third lane in each direction is provided at the toll plazas for identification of high occupancy vehicles. There is one toll collection point (toll plaza) in each direction that is located approximately 6 miles from the western terminus.
The toll collection process is completely electronic and uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. Each customer’s vehicle is required to have a transponder which is read by the toll collection equipment at the toll plaza. In addition, optical character recognition (OCR) cameras are used for enforcement.
History of Cofiroute USA’s Involvement
In December 1990, Cofiroute S.A. joined Peter Kiewit (later Level 3) and Granite Construction to create California Private Transportation Company (CPTC) in order to use the 91 Express Lanes as one of the four demonstration projects developed by the California Assembly Bill 680. Debt financing was provided by a group of lenders including Citicorp USA, Banque National de Paris, Societe Generale, Deutsche Bank and CIGNA Investments. The award-winning, $135 million project was opened in December 1995. .
During the early development phases of the 91 Express Lanes, Cofiroute USA’s team was responsible for project management, initial implementation and on-going enhancements for the Electronic Toll and Traffic Management (ETTM) system. After its opening, Cofiroute USA acted as the primary operator for the 91 Express Lanes. It is responsible for all aspects of toll operations including project management, customer service, account management, system and equipment maintenance, facility maintenance, roadside services, violation processing and marketing.
As the first toll road in California that was financed, owned and operated by a private developer, the 91 Express Lanes faced some controversy. Despite this controversy, the 91 Express Lanes proved to be a success both financially and as a traffic management solution during its seven years of operation by CPTC. The number of customer accounts grew to over 170,000, representing 40,000 trips per day and generating $25 million in annual toll revenues.
In 2002, the concessionaire sold the 91 Express Lanes franchise to Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) for $207.5 million making OCTA owner of the 91 Express Lanes on January 3, 2003.
Since 2003, Cofiroute USA has continued to provide world-class toll operation services to OCTA. Its experience as an owner and operator of the 91 Express Lanes allow Cofiroute USA to provide OCTA with unique insights into the challenges related to running a day-to-day toll operation. This partnership has been crucial as OCTA implemented necessary changes to the operations and systems required of a public-sector owner.
Pioneer in Congestion Pricing
TThe 91 Express Lanes pioneered congestion pricing by recognizing that motorists choose to travel certain hours based on need, convenience and price sensitivity. This policy implemented a procedure that increased tolls for specific hours when traffic approached the volume at which free flow would become unpredictable. Commuters would then choose to self-regulate travel, changing travel times or patterns to choose less expensive shoulder hours or to travel on less crowded days. Tolls are collected through the convenient use of a windshield-mounted transponder that automatically deducts fees from a prepaid account. The pricing model helps maintain a free-flow commute at all times.
The strong relationship between OCTA and Cofiroute USA can be seen in several accomplishments. . In 2005, OCTA and Cofiroute USA signed a new contract. In 2009, Cofiroute USA was selected for new operating contracts, extending and expanding Cofiroute USA’s pivotal role as operator of the 91 Express Lanes.
New $80 Million Contract
Among its most recent accomplishments, in 2011Cofiroute USA was awarded a five-year, $38.5 million contract from OCTA for operating the 91 Express Lanes, with one five-year option, totaling $80 million. OCTA relied on Cofiroute USA to advance the technological capabilities of the 91 Express Lanes by administering an integrated system that included transponder tracking, accounting, a web-based consumer interface and dynamic pricing capabilities.
Along with its software partner TollPlus, Cofiroute USA designed a system that utilizes the advanced technologies of automation, creating a more efficient system that allows OCTA to better track toll revenues and control operating costs. . This fully integrated back office system manages every operation, report and customer service detail. Because of Cofiroute USA’s contribution, customers will enjoy a more user-friendly web access to their account and also benefit from a system that integrates customer service with payment and violation tracking.
Additionally, the new 91 Express Lanes system interfaces with other toll road systems, including the Transportation Corridor Agencies and its toll roads, 261, 241 and 73 in Orange County.
The 91 Express Lanes have been identified as the global standard for automated toll road management. Its facilities have been toured by transportation officials from 26 countries and 23 states. The facility currently averages over 35,000 daily transactions and delivers, generating $40 million in revenues for OCTA. This in turn provides resources for ongoing capital improvements on all SR-91 lanes.